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Communicating Research to Non-Researcher Audiences: A Panel Discussion From the National Cancer Institute’s Future of Cancer Health Economics Research Conference

Communicating Research to Non-Researcher Audiences: A Panel Discussion From the National Cancer... Abstract With rising health-care costs and increasing patient financial strain, health economics research has never been more relevant to the lay public. This manuscript summarizes the discussion from the “Communicating Health Economics Research to Non-Researcher Audiences” expert panel and highlights the foundations of good health/science communication, distilling your work into a newsworthy headline, and communication concerns in specific scenarios. It also provides “dos and don'ts” for promoting your research to the news media and a list of resources on interacting with the press for further study. The Future of Cancer Health Economics Research Conference featured a broad range of discussions on diverse topics to help support and enhance the development of the field. The session entitled “Communicating Health Economics Research to Non-Researcher Audiences” featured expert panelists discussing the best tactics to improve communication of important research findings to the lay public. Panelists included Dr Aaron Carroll (health services researcher, author, and pediatrician), Dr Stacie Dusetzina (health policy researcher and pharmacoepidemiologist with a focus on drug policies and prices), and Ms Margot Sanger-Katz (domestic correspondent for The New York Times, columnist on health care for The Upshot); the panel was moderated by Dr Yousuf Zafar (expert on the financial burden of cancer care and practicing oncologist). Several themes emerged from this discussion, including “how to develop a good skillset in media communication” and “strategies on how to convey the complex topics of cancer research to a broader audience.” Potential pitfalls related to communicating to non-researcher audiences were also highlighted. What Are the Skills and Foundations of Good Health and Science Communication? Although it is clear that physicians and scientists “know what they know,” they are often used to communicating in a scientific language about their findings. Although this is often appropriate when presenting their findings at scientific conferences, physicians and scientists may still struggle with how to relay this information to a broader, nonscientific audience. Thankfully, journalists and reporters in the news media are specifically skilled at disseminating and translating new findings to the general public. The knowledge spread from medical journals and academic conferences (especially those within a subspecialty field) may be quite limited without news coverage. Disseminating research through the news media is helpful to researchers by both broadening its impact and making it more likely to reach policy makers or other researchers. This can translate into increased interest in your field, improved possibilities for funding, and greater accolades for your institution. The first step towards building a news media communications toolkit is recognizing your worth; it is important to know that you are qualified to speak as an expert. Publishing research and giving presentations is the definition of being an authority in a field. You have the capacity to speak intelligently about your research and your overall specialty, including providing commentary on others’ research. As with most skills, the more you practice, the better you will become at it. The more interviews in which you participate, the more comfortable you will feel. Additionally, you will become more familiar to journalists as a content expert. This builds on itself. If you respond in a timely fashion to interview requests and give a good, quotable interview, you will start to build your reputation within the print and online media. Some may want to write themselves, speaking directly to a larger audience outside of academia. It is important to practice the kind of writing you want to produce. Do not be afraid to write an op-ed or a commentary and do not get discouraged. You can (and will) improve over time. Writing for the general public is different than scientific writing. It may be helpful to read other op-eds written by scientists as a guide for how to create a persuasive argument, backed by data, when you do not have room for a list of 50 references. For those who are anxious about talking to the media, it is important to overcome this anxiety or fear. Many institutions have a media relations team who can help with press releases for new research and facilitate the promotion of your work. They may hold classes or workshops on how to package your research to the lay media or how to talk about your work in ways that clearly highlight key points to nonresearcher audiences. Communications training is often more than just learning “media tips”; it focuses on how to frame your work so that it is relatable and rooted in successful storytelling. These skills are helpful in talking with the media but also in conveying the importance of health science research to policy makers, patient advocacy groups, and others who have a national voice in health care. Although institutional media relations teams offer support by drafting press releases and disseminating work through their media contacts, researchers may also directly connect with reporters. If you feel your work is meaningful and timely, consider reaching out to reporters who you think may be interested in the topic. Press releases by nature are formulaic and artificial. Creating your own “pitch” may actually be more compelling as long as you are succinct and clear on why your research is essential and exciting. It requires preparation to make a pitch. The goal is to communicate it in a way that will connect with the lay public. If you are excited about it, you can often get other people to be excited about it as well. It is still important to manage expectations. It is rare to get a long article dedicated solely on you and your work. Your pitch is much more likely to spark the idea for a larger piece in which your research is mentioned. One part of speaking to the media that may frustrate scientists is not having full control over the story. You have to trust that the journalist will do a good job and report fairly on the topic. Verifying the journalist’s credentials and ensuring they represent a reputable media outlet is paramount. Overall, you should know that most journalists are not trying to trick you into giving an unflattering or revealing quote; they are not looking for a “gotcha” moment. Most good journalists just want to tell a thought-provoking story about why your research is meaningful to their audience. To that end, if you have a personal connection to the research or a way you can illustrate your findings in a patient story, this can be very helpful. A personal anecdote humanizes the work and can be very compelling to readers. With any story, however, you should maintain privacy for others and confirm patient permission when appropriate. The last foundation of good news health communication is understanding that the media’s timeline is different from the standard academic timeline. For a scientist who has worked on a project for months or years, the culmination of it in an academic publication will often appear “newsworthy” in their mind. Sadly, the news timeline is not necessarily focused on a manuscript’s publication. There is more immediacy in news reporting. It is more rapid-fire, and the “newsiness” of content almost always trumps the immediacy of publication. News media is interested in presenting what is novel: does this research represent a new way of thinking about an extant concern, or has there been enough momentum behind a topic that there been a tidal shift that it needs to be covered? For this reason, it is worthwhile talking about your work early rather than waiting for the research to be published. You may not be able to talk about the specific data and results until they are published, but discussing why your area of research is timely can be helpful. In summary, the key steps to develop a good skillset in media communication are: Recognize your worth. You are an expert in your research topic. Practice writing for the lay public; an op-ed can fine tune your unique “voice.” Writing a news pitch can also focus your message. Overcome anxiety related to talking to a reporter; get to know your media relations team and take a class if available. Practice how to frame your work. Interviews get easier with practice. Additional resources are listed at the end to help increase your media training knowledge. How Do You Distill Your Complex Research Into Something That Is “Newsworthy”? A good headline is a single declarative sentence with a verb. When you are putting together a pitch or a quote about your work, you are writing your own headline. It is therefore important that you speak plainly and with clear, concise words. Do not use technical language with media interviews or in a pitch. Reciting standard errors or marginal effects will only dilute your message. Outcomes need to be in terms that people understand such as dollars, increases and decreases, or risks and benefits. These terms may not be as precise and are not accompanied by a 95% confidence interval, but they are more effective because people relate to them. Many researchers worry about balancing a punchy, catchy headline with the fear of overstating the data and findings. The headline needs to be true, and it should not be an exaggeration or mischaracterization; it should simply be the most effective way you can describe it. When you are speaking with the press, you should lead with the most interesting or surprising thing that you learned. Highlight who it affects, how it affects them, and why it is important. You should have the main highlights of your study written down and practiced before you start any interview. Caveats are important but do not lead with them. Make sure you can state why your findings may not apply across populations. It is more likely that others will be passionate about your work if you are passionate. Remember why you asked the research question in the first place (this may require you go back years mentally, given the academic timeline) as people really do respond to enthusiasm. Think about the “quotable” line. Express your research in a way that makes the writer’s job easier. Finally, you should always have something in reserve for the “last thoughts” question at the end of the interview; this is your opportunity to open up the larger context of your work or highlight the next directions. Unique Concerns in Communicating Health Economics Research With rising health-care costs and increasing patient financial strain, health economics research has never been more relevant to the lay public. In contrast to many esoteric biological concepts, most people are at least familiar with the idea of co-payments, surprise bills, and affordability. The unique job of the health economics researcher is to relay findings regarding large-scale economic studies into a narrative that hits within an audience’s personal experience. This means translating millions of dollars in drug revenue or cost savings, for example, into the dollars and cents implications for the individual. It is still important to state the overall impact on the nation; however, distilling how specific health policies can create meaningful change to patients with cancer is essential. Depending on your research topic, this may range from explaining how drug pricing or care delivery costs manifest for American families who struggle to afford care and whose cancer outcomes are compromised by poor access and affordability. In some ways, health economics research is easier to explain than other oncology research to a nonscientific audience because the relevance is clear to even the most disinterested viewer. Almost everyone knows someone whose health care has been unaffordable. However, providing clarity with concepts such as “value” is important, especially because it seems simple and is commonly used in ordinary conversation but can have many complex manifestations. The “value equation” itself (value = quality/cost) depends strictly on how quality is defined, which outcomes are considered, and whose costs matter. Communicating in Specific Scenarios Know the intended audience for any communication. Is an interview for a major national newspaper or a specialty cancer magazine? Are you giving a talk to a patient advocacy group with members who are interested in the latest research in their disease type or to an elected official who may not know much about the diagnosis and treatment of cancer? Consider who is the target of the piece and how they will be getting the information (ie, in person, print, audio, blog, etc). This can help you decide on how much background to give about your research, the level of detail for your findings, as well as the context to put around your specific results. Table 1 summarizes some helpful tips in communicating to both the news media and to specific groups, including speaking to the knowledge level of your audience, knowing in advance your key points to highlight, and speaking in plain language. Table 1. Do’s and don’ts of promoting your research to the news media and to specific audiences DO . DON’T . Be enthusiastic about your work and your field. The greatest ambassador to a niche field is a scientist who is passionate about their research and can explain it in a way that gets others excited too. Forget that many people may not have baseline information about your topic. Your enthusiasm goes a long way to carry a listener into complex subject matter until they reach the point at which it matters to them. Speak to the intended audience. Is this news story for the general public? A scientific audience outside your specialty? A cancer news site? Tailor the background and findings to the level of understanding of readers and viewers. Use the same language with every reporter regardless of their beat. An audio interview for NPR should be prepared for differently than a news article for Medscape.com. Decide which 3 key points to highlight from your research. Start with the key finding first and then explain how you discovered this. Highlight additional points along the way and in the summary. Get lost in the details and forget to relay why this really matters to people. Be available. Open your direct messages on social media Respond to emails in a timely fashion Respect reporter deadlines Agree to an interview until you know: Where it will be published What they specifically want you to talk about so you can review it in advance Who is doing the interview Practice using plain, clear language to relay your findings. Use acronyms, jargon, or specialty specific language (even if speaking to a specialty audience). Explain the limitations of your findings. Give appropriate context. Expect that the audience will know why this may not apply to them. Discuss what the next steps are for your work. Forget to highlight what needs to be done to confirm your findings or to put your work in a larger context. Know the media team at your institution: Let them know if you are scheduling an interview Some institutions have classes that can help you learn to communicate better with the media The team may have contacts at news outlets that can better position your research Go it alone, especially if you are new. DO . DON’T . Be enthusiastic about your work and your field. The greatest ambassador to a niche field is a scientist who is passionate about their research and can explain it in a way that gets others excited too. Forget that many people may not have baseline information about your topic. Your enthusiasm goes a long way to carry a listener into complex subject matter until they reach the point at which it matters to them. Speak to the intended audience. Is this news story for the general public? A scientific audience outside your specialty? A cancer news site? Tailor the background and findings to the level of understanding of readers and viewers. Use the same language with every reporter regardless of their beat. An audio interview for NPR should be prepared for differently than a news article for Medscape.com. Decide which 3 key points to highlight from your research. Start with the key finding first and then explain how you discovered this. Highlight additional points along the way and in the summary. Get lost in the details and forget to relay why this really matters to people. Be available. Open your direct messages on social media Respond to emails in a timely fashion Respect reporter deadlines Agree to an interview until you know: Where it will be published What they specifically want you to talk about so you can review it in advance Who is doing the interview Practice using plain, clear language to relay your findings. Use acronyms, jargon, or specialty specific language (even if speaking to a specialty audience). Explain the limitations of your findings. Give appropriate context. Expect that the audience will know why this may not apply to them. Discuss what the next steps are for your work. Forget to highlight what needs to be done to confirm your findings or to put your work in a larger context. Know the media team at your institution: Let them know if you are scheduling an interview Some institutions have classes that can help you learn to communicate better with the media The team may have contacts at news outlets that can better position your research Go it alone, especially if you are new. Open in new tab Table 1. Do’s and don’ts of promoting your research to the news media and to specific audiences DO . DON’T . Be enthusiastic about your work and your field. The greatest ambassador to a niche field is a scientist who is passionate about their research and can explain it in a way that gets others excited too. Forget that many people may not have baseline information about your topic. Your enthusiasm goes a long way to carry a listener into complex subject matter until they reach the point at which it matters to them. Speak to the intended audience. Is this news story for the general public? A scientific audience outside your specialty? A cancer news site? Tailor the background and findings to the level of understanding of readers and viewers. Use the same language with every reporter regardless of their beat. An audio interview for NPR should be prepared for differently than a news article for Medscape.com. Decide which 3 key points to highlight from your research. Start with the key finding first and then explain how you discovered this. Highlight additional points along the way and in the summary. Get lost in the details and forget to relay why this really matters to people. Be available. Open your direct messages on social media Respond to emails in a timely fashion Respect reporter deadlines Agree to an interview until you know: Where it will be published What they specifically want you to talk about so you can review it in advance Who is doing the interview Practice using plain, clear language to relay your findings. Use acronyms, jargon, or specialty specific language (even if speaking to a specialty audience). Explain the limitations of your findings. Give appropriate context. Expect that the audience will know why this may not apply to them. Discuss what the next steps are for your work. Forget to highlight what needs to be done to confirm your findings or to put your work in a larger context. Know the media team at your institution: Let them know if you are scheduling an interview Some institutions have classes that can help you learn to communicate better with the media The team may have contacts at news outlets that can better position your research Go it alone, especially if you are new. DO . DON’T . Be enthusiastic about your work and your field. The greatest ambassador to a niche field is a scientist who is passionate about their research and can explain it in a way that gets others excited too. Forget that many people may not have baseline information about your topic. Your enthusiasm goes a long way to carry a listener into complex subject matter until they reach the point at which it matters to them. Speak to the intended audience. Is this news story for the general public? A scientific audience outside your specialty? A cancer news site? Tailor the background and findings to the level of understanding of readers and viewers. Use the same language with every reporter regardless of their beat. An audio interview for NPR should be prepared for differently than a news article for Medscape.com. Decide which 3 key points to highlight from your research. Start with the key finding first and then explain how you discovered this. Highlight additional points along the way and in the summary. Get lost in the details and forget to relay why this really matters to people. Be available. Open your direct messages on social media Respond to emails in a timely fashion Respect reporter deadlines Agree to an interview until you know: Where it will be published What they specifically want you to talk about so you can review it in advance Who is doing the interview Practice using plain, clear language to relay your findings. Use acronyms, jargon, or specialty specific language (even if speaking to a specialty audience). Explain the limitations of your findings. Give appropriate context. Expect that the audience will know why this may not apply to them. Discuss what the next steps are for your work. Forget to highlight what needs to be done to confirm your findings or to put your work in a larger context. Know the media team at your institution: Let them know if you are scheduling an interview Some institutions have classes that can help you learn to communicate better with the media The team may have contacts at news outlets that can better position your research Go it alone, especially if you are new. Open in new tab Communicating effectively on social media is of growing importance in the modern era of rapid information spread. If you can perfect a 280-character tweet about a complex topic, you are well on your way to writing an email that a journalist will open and read. You will also be able to express study findings in a clear, concise, and captivating manner. A “Tweetorial”—a series of educational tweets on a particular topic—makes you focus on the bullet points of your research that you want to highlight. Connecting with people online in a fun, positive way is fulfilling, but when communicating in a text and photo-based format without the nuances of facial expression and voice and timing, tone is important, and appropriate topic selection is vital. Using Twitter to summarize new research coming out (not even your own) can be like “daily calisthenics” to exercise the muscles of succinct, clear writing that gets the message across. Twitter does require a time investment upfront, however. You will need to be engaged before you actually have a paper out. Otherwise, you will not be a member of the relevant community, and your work will likely not be shared widely. Consider making a visual abstract (a shareable infographic summary with the key figures and take-aways) for your work if the journal does not. If you are active and engaged on Twitter, in addition to the benefit of being part of a motivated, world-wide community interested in particular research topic, journalists can and will seek you out when your expertise is wanted on a subject. In summary, fostering skills to improve communication to nonresearcher audiences has clear benefits in sharing your work to a larger world outside of academia. Improving your ability to speak to many different populations on why your research matters to them can open new opportunities for collaboration and career development and move your work into the public arena. Additionally, becoming an effective and clear communicator can help other aspects of your work, including grant or scientific writing and giving high-quality presentations. Funding Fumiko Chino is funded in part through the NIH/NCI Cancer Center Support Grant P30 CA008748. Notes Role of the funder: The NIH/NCI did not have any role in the concept, drafting, or finalizing of this work. Disclosures: None. Author contributions: All authors: Concept; FC: Draft; All authors: Reviewing, Editing, and Finalizing Manuscript. Acknowledgements: None. View the full conversation from the panel discussion available here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vdiSZIcHU0. Suggested Resources: Tips for Scientists Communicating With the Press: https://www.aaas.org/programs/center-public-engagement-science-and-technology/tips-scientists-communicating-press. Your Research in the Headlines: Dealing With the Media: https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2008/09/your-research-headlines-dealing-media. Standing Up for Science: A Guide to the Media for Early Career Scientists: https://senseaboutscience.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Standing-up-for-Science-interactive.pdf. “On the Record,” Giving Media Interviews Can Raise Scientists’ Profiles If They Prepare Well and Manage Expectations: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-06871-7. Top Tips From Science Writers—Before You Speak to the Media: https://www.elsevier.com/connect/top-tips-from-science-writers-before-you-speak-to-the-media. Your Research Is Published—What Now? Seven Simple Tips to Communicate It Effectively: https://www.labsexplorer.com/c/your-research-is-published-what-now-7-simple-tips-to-communicate-it-effectively_217. Nine Ways Scientists Demonstrate They Don't Understand Journalism: https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2012/jan/17/scientists-journalism. “Do I Make Myself Clear?” Media Training for Scientists: https://www.sciencemag.org/features/2018/01/do-i-make-myself-clear-media-training-scientists. © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model) © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png JNCI Monographs Oxford University Press

Communicating Research to Non-Researcher Audiences: A Panel Discussion From the National Cancer Institute’s Future of Cancer Health Economics Research Conference

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1052-6773
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Abstract

Abstract With rising health-care costs and increasing patient financial strain, health economics research has never been more relevant to the lay public. This manuscript summarizes the discussion from the “Communicating Health Economics Research to Non-Researcher Audiences” expert panel and highlights the foundations of good health/science communication, distilling your work into a newsworthy headline, and communication concerns in specific scenarios. It also provides “dos and don'ts” for promoting your research to the news media and a list of resources on interacting with the press for further study. The Future of Cancer Health Economics Research Conference featured a broad range of discussions on diverse topics to help support and enhance the development of the field. The session entitled “Communicating Health Economics Research to Non-Researcher Audiences” featured expert panelists discussing the best tactics to improve communication of important research findings to the lay public. Panelists included Dr Aaron Carroll (health services researcher, author, and pediatrician), Dr Stacie Dusetzina (health policy researcher and pharmacoepidemiologist with a focus on drug policies and prices), and Ms Margot Sanger-Katz (domestic correspondent for The New York Times, columnist on health care for The Upshot); the panel was moderated by Dr Yousuf Zafar (expert on the financial burden of cancer care and practicing oncologist). Several themes emerged from this discussion, including “how to develop a good skillset in media communication” and “strategies on how to convey the complex topics of cancer research to a broader audience.” Potential pitfalls related to communicating to non-researcher audiences were also highlighted. What Are the Skills and Foundations of Good Health and Science Communication? Although it is clear that physicians and scientists “know what they know,” they are often used to communicating in a scientific language about their findings. Although this is often appropriate when presenting their findings at scientific conferences, physicians and scientists may still struggle with how to relay this information to a broader, nonscientific audience. Thankfully, journalists and reporters in the news media are specifically skilled at disseminating and translating new findings to the general public. The knowledge spread from medical journals and academic conferences (especially those within a subspecialty field) may be quite limited without news coverage. Disseminating research through the news media is helpful to researchers by both broadening its impact and making it more likely to reach policy makers or other researchers. This can translate into increased interest in your field, improved possibilities for funding, and greater accolades for your institution. The first step towards building a news media communications toolkit is recognizing your worth; it is important to know that you are qualified to speak as an expert. Publishing research and giving presentations is the definition of being an authority in a field. You have the capacity to speak intelligently about your research and your overall specialty, including providing commentary on others’ research. As with most skills, the more you practice, the better you will become at it. The more interviews in which you participate, the more comfortable you will feel. Additionally, you will become more familiar to journalists as a content expert. This builds on itself. If you respond in a timely fashion to interview requests and give a good, quotable interview, you will start to build your reputation within the print and online media. Some may want to write themselves, speaking directly to a larger audience outside of academia. It is important to practice the kind of writing you want to produce. Do not be afraid to write an op-ed or a commentary and do not get discouraged. You can (and will) improve over time. Writing for the general public is different than scientific writing. It may be helpful to read other op-eds written by scientists as a guide for how to create a persuasive argument, backed by data, when you do not have room for a list of 50 references. For those who are anxious about talking to the media, it is important to overcome this anxiety or fear. Many institutions have a media relations team who can help with press releases for new research and facilitate the promotion of your work. They may hold classes or workshops on how to package your research to the lay media or how to talk about your work in ways that clearly highlight key points to nonresearcher audiences. Communications training is often more than just learning “media tips”; it focuses on how to frame your work so that it is relatable and rooted in successful storytelling. These skills are helpful in talking with the media but also in conveying the importance of health science research to policy makers, patient advocacy groups, and others who have a national voice in health care. Although institutional media relations teams offer support by drafting press releases and disseminating work through their media contacts, researchers may also directly connect with reporters. If you feel your work is meaningful and timely, consider reaching out to reporters who you think may be interested in the topic. Press releases by nature are formulaic and artificial. Creating your own “pitch” may actually be more compelling as long as you are succinct and clear on why your research is essential and exciting. It requires preparation to make a pitch. The goal is to communicate it in a way that will connect with the lay public. If you are excited about it, you can often get other people to be excited about it as well. It is still important to manage expectations. It is rare to get a long article dedicated solely on you and your work. Your pitch is much more likely to spark the idea for a larger piece in which your research is mentioned. One part of speaking to the media that may frustrate scientists is not having full control over the story. You have to trust that the journalist will do a good job and report fairly on the topic. Verifying the journalist’s credentials and ensuring they represent a reputable media outlet is paramount. Overall, you should know that most journalists are not trying to trick you into giving an unflattering or revealing quote; they are not looking for a “gotcha” moment. Most good journalists just want to tell a thought-provoking story about why your research is meaningful to their audience. To that end, if you have a personal connection to the research or a way you can illustrate your findings in a patient story, this can be very helpful. A personal anecdote humanizes the work and can be very compelling to readers. With any story, however, you should maintain privacy for others and confirm patient permission when appropriate. The last foundation of good news health communication is understanding that the media’s timeline is different from the standard academic timeline. For a scientist who has worked on a project for months or years, the culmination of it in an academic publication will often appear “newsworthy” in their mind. Sadly, the news timeline is not necessarily focused on a manuscript’s publication. There is more immediacy in news reporting. It is more rapid-fire, and the “newsiness” of content almost always trumps the immediacy of publication. News media is interested in presenting what is novel: does this research represent a new way of thinking about an extant concern, or has there been enough momentum behind a topic that there been a tidal shift that it needs to be covered? For this reason, it is worthwhile talking about your work early rather than waiting for the research to be published. You may not be able to talk about the specific data and results until they are published, but discussing why your area of research is timely can be helpful. In summary, the key steps to develop a good skillset in media communication are: Recognize your worth. You are an expert in your research topic. Practice writing for the lay public; an op-ed can fine tune your unique “voice.” Writing a news pitch can also focus your message. Overcome anxiety related to talking to a reporter; get to know your media relations team and take a class if available. Practice how to frame your work. Interviews get easier with practice. Additional resources are listed at the end to help increase your media training knowledge. How Do You Distill Your Complex Research Into Something That Is “Newsworthy”? A good headline is a single declarative sentence with a verb. When you are putting together a pitch or a quote about your work, you are writing your own headline. It is therefore important that you speak plainly and with clear, concise words. Do not use technical language with media interviews or in a pitch. Reciting standard errors or marginal effects will only dilute your message. Outcomes need to be in terms that people understand such as dollars, increases and decreases, or risks and benefits. These terms may not be as precise and are not accompanied by a 95% confidence interval, but they are more effective because people relate to them. Many researchers worry about balancing a punchy, catchy headline with the fear of overstating the data and findings. The headline needs to be true, and it should not be an exaggeration or mischaracterization; it should simply be the most effective way you can describe it. When you are speaking with the press, you should lead with the most interesting or surprising thing that you learned. Highlight who it affects, how it affects them, and why it is important. You should have the main highlights of your study written down and practiced before you start any interview. Caveats are important but do not lead with them. Make sure you can state why your findings may not apply across populations. It is more likely that others will be passionate about your work if you are passionate. Remember why you asked the research question in the first place (this may require you go back years mentally, given the academic timeline) as people really do respond to enthusiasm. Think about the “quotable” line. Express your research in a way that makes the writer’s job easier. Finally, you should always have something in reserve for the “last thoughts” question at the end of the interview; this is your opportunity to open up the larger context of your work or highlight the next directions. Unique Concerns in Communicating Health Economics Research With rising health-care costs and increasing patient financial strain, health economics research has never been more relevant to the lay public. In contrast to many esoteric biological concepts, most people are at least familiar with the idea of co-payments, surprise bills, and affordability. The unique job of the health economics researcher is to relay findings regarding large-scale economic studies into a narrative that hits within an audience’s personal experience. This means translating millions of dollars in drug revenue or cost savings, for example, into the dollars and cents implications for the individual. It is still important to state the overall impact on the nation; however, distilling how specific health policies can create meaningful change to patients with cancer is essential. Depending on your research topic, this may range from explaining how drug pricing or care delivery costs manifest for American families who struggle to afford care and whose cancer outcomes are compromised by poor access and affordability. In some ways, health economics research is easier to explain than other oncology research to a nonscientific audience because the relevance is clear to even the most disinterested viewer. Almost everyone knows someone whose health care has been unaffordable. However, providing clarity with concepts such as “value” is important, especially because it seems simple and is commonly used in ordinary conversation but can have many complex manifestations. The “value equation” itself (value = quality/cost) depends strictly on how quality is defined, which outcomes are considered, and whose costs matter. Communicating in Specific Scenarios Know the intended audience for any communication. Is an interview for a major national newspaper or a specialty cancer magazine? Are you giving a talk to a patient advocacy group with members who are interested in the latest research in their disease type or to an elected official who may not know much about the diagnosis and treatment of cancer? Consider who is the target of the piece and how they will be getting the information (ie, in person, print, audio, blog, etc). This can help you decide on how much background to give about your research, the level of detail for your findings, as well as the context to put around your specific results. Table 1 summarizes some helpful tips in communicating to both the news media and to specific groups, including speaking to the knowledge level of your audience, knowing in advance your key points to highlight, and speaking in plain language. Table 1. Do’s and don’ts of promoting your research to the news media and to specific audiences DO . DON’T . Be enthusiastic about your work and your field. The greatest ambassador to a niche field is a scientist who is passionate about their research and can explain it in a way that gets others excited too. Forget that many people may not have baseline information about your topic. Your enthusiasm goes a long way to carry a listener into complex subject matter until they reach the point at which it matters to them. Speak to the intended audience. Is this news story for the general public? A scientific audience outside your specialty? A cancer news site? Tailor the background and findings to the level of understanding of readers and viewers. Use the same language with every reporter regardless of their beat. An audio interview for NPR should be prepared for differently than a news article for Medscape.com. Decide which 3 key points to highlight from your research. Start with the key finding first and then explain how you discovered this. Highlight additional points along the way and in the summary. Get lost in the details and forget to relay why this really matters to people. Be available. Open your direct messages on social media Respond to emails in a timely fashion Respect reporter deadlines Agree to an interview until you know: Where it will be published What they specifically want you to talk about so you can review it in advance Who is doing the interview Practice using plain, clear language to relay your findings. Use acronyms, jargon, or specialty specific language (even if speaking to a specialty audience). Explain the limitations of your findings. Give appropriate context. Expect that the audience will know why this may not apply to them. Discuss what the next steps are for your work. Forget to highlight what needs to be done to confirm your findings or to put your work in a larger context. Know the media team at your institution: Let them know if you are scheduling an interview Some institutions have classes that can help you learn to communicate better with the media The team may have contacts at news outlets that can better position your research Go it alone, especially if you are new. DO . DON’T . Be enthusiastic about your work and your field. The greatest ambassador to a niche field is a scientist who is passionate about their research and can explain it in a way that gets others excited too. Forget that many people may not have baseline information about your topic. Your enthusiasm goes a long way to carry a listener into complex subject matter until they reach the point at which it matters to them. Speak to the intended audience. Is this news story for the general public? A scientific audience outside your specialty? A cancer news site? Tailor the background and findings to the level of understanding of readers and viewers. Use the same language with every reporter regardless of their beat. An audio interview for NPR should be prepared for differently than a news article for Medscape.com. Decide which 3 key points to highlight from your research. Start with the key finding first and then explain how you discovered this. Highlight additional points along the way and in the summary. Get lost in the details and forget to relay why this really matters to people. Be available. Open your direct messages on social media Respond to emails in a timely fashion Respect reporter deadlines Agree to an interview until you know: Where it will be published What they specifically want you to talk about so you can review it in advance Who is doing the interview Practice using plain, clear language to relay your findings. Use acronyms, jargon, or specialty specific language (even if speaking to a specialty audience). Explain the limitations of your findings. Give appropriate context. Expect that the audience will know why this may not apply to them. Discuss what the next steps are for your work. Forget to highlight what needs to be done to confirm your findings or to put your work in a larger context. Know the media team at your institution: Let them know if you are scheduling an interview Some institutions have classes that can help you learn to communicate better with the media The team may have contacts at news outlets that can better position your research Go it alone, especially if you are new. Open in new tab Table 1. Do’s and don’ts of promoting your research to the news media and to specific audiences DO . DON’T . Be enthusiastic about your work and your field. The greatest ambassador to a niche field is a scientist who is passionate about their research and can explain it in a way that gets others excited too. Forget that many people may not have baseline information about your topic. Your enthusiasm goes a long way to carry a listener into complex subject matter until they reach the point at which it matters to them. Speak to the intended audience. Is this news story for the general public? A scientific audience outside your specialty? A cancer news site? Tailor the background and findings to the level of understanding of readers and viewers. Use the same language with every reporter regardless of their beat. An audio interview for NPR should be prepared for differently than a news article for Medscape.com. Decide which 3 key points to highlight from your research. Start with the key finding first and then explain how you discovered this. Highlight additional points along the way and in the summary. Get lost in the details and forget to relay why this really matters to people. Be available. Open your direct messages on social media Respond to emails in a timely fashion Respect reporter deadlines Agree to an interview until you know: Where it will be published What they specifically want you to talk about so you can review it in advance Who is doing the interview Practice using plain, clear language to relay your findings. Use acronyms, jargon, or specialty specific language (even if speaking to a specialty audience). Explain the limitations of your findings. Give appropriate context. Expect that the audience will know why this may not apply to them. Discuss what the next steps are for your work. Forget to highlight what needs to be done to confirm your findings or to put your work in a larger context. Know the media team at your institution: Let them know if you are scheduling an interview Some institutions have classes that can help you learn to communicate better with the media The team may have contacts at news outlets that can better position your research Go it alone, especially if you are new. DO . DON’T . Be enthusiastic about your work and your field. The greatest ambassador to a niche field is a scientist who is passionate about their research and can explain it in a way that gets others excited too. Forget that many people may not have baseline information about your topic. Your enthusiasm goes a long way to carry a listener into complex subject matter until they reach the point at which it matters to them. Speak to the intended audience. Is this news story for the general public? A scientific audience outside your specialty? A cancer news site? Tailor the background and findings to the level of understanding of readers and viewers. Use the same language with every reporter regardless of their beat. An audio interview for NPR should be prepared for differently than a news article for Medscape.com. Decide which 3 key points to highlight from your research. Start with the key finding first and then explain how you discovered this. Highlight additional points along the way and in the summary. Get lost in the details and forget to relay why this really matters to people. Be available. Open your direct messages on social media Respond to emails in a timely fashion Respect reporter deadlines Agree to an interview until you know: Where it will be published What they specifically want you to talk about so you can review it in advance Who is doing the interview Practice using plain, clear language to relay your findings. Use acronyms, jargon, or specialty specific language (even if speaking to a specialty audience). Explain the limitations of your findings. Give appropriate context. Expect that the audience will know why this may not apply to them. Discuss what the next steps are for your work. Forget to highlight what needs to be done to confirm your findings or to put your work in a larger context. Know the media team at your institution: Let them know if you are scheduling an interview Some institutions have classes that can help you learn to communicate better with the media The team may have contacts at news outlets that can better position your research Go it alone, especially if you are new. Open in new tab Communicating effectively on social media is of growing importance in the modern era of rapid information spread. If you can perfect a 280-character tweet about a complex topic, you are well on your way to writing an email that a journalist will open and read. You will also be able to express study findings in a clear, concise, and captivating manner. A “Tweetorial”—a series of educational tweets on a particular topic—makes you focus on the bullet points of your research that you want to highlight. Connecting with people online in a fun, positive way is fulfilling, but when communicating in a text and photo-based format without the nuances of facial expression and voice and timing, tone is important, and appropriate topic selection is vital. Using Twitter to summarize new research coming out (not even your own) can be like “daily calisthenics” to exercise the muscles of succinct, clear writing that gets the message across. Twitter does require a time investment upfront, however. You will need to be engaged before you actually have a paper out. Otherwise, you will not be a member of the relevant community, and your work will likely not be shared widely. Consider making a visual abstract (a shareable infographic summary with the key figures and take-aways) for your work if the journal does not. If you are active and engaged on Twitter, in addition to the benefit of being part of a motivated, world-wide community interested in particular research topic, journalists can and will seek you out when your expertise is wanted on a subject. In summary, fostering skills to improve communication to nonresearcher audiences has clear benefits in sharing your work to a larger world outside of academia. Improving your ability to speak to many different populations on why your research matters to them can open new opportunities for collaboration and career development and move your work into the public arena. Additionally, becoming an effective and clear communicator can help other aspects of your work, including grant or scientific writing and giving high-quality presentations. Funding Fumiko Chino is funded in part through the NIH/NCI Cancer Center Support Grant P30 CA008748. Notes Role of the funder: The NIH/NCI did not have any role in the concept, drafting, or finalizing of this work. Disclosures: None. Author contributions: All authors: Concept; FC: Draft; All authors: Reviewing, Editing, and Finalizing Manuscript. Acknowledgements: None. View the full conversation from the panel discussion available here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vdiSZIcHU0. Suggested Resources: Tips for Scientists Communicating With the Press: https://www.aaas.org/programs/center-public-engagement-science-and-technology/tips-scientists-communicating-press. Your Research in the Headlines: Dealing With the Media: https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2008/09/your-research-headlines-dealing-media. Standing Up for Science: A Guide to the Media for Early Career Scientists: https://senseaboutscience.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Standing-up-for-Science-interactive.pdf. “On the Record,” Giving Media Interviews Can Raise Scientists’ Profiles If They Prepare Well and Manage Expectations: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-06871-7. Top Tips From Science Writers—Before You Speak to the Media: https://www.elsevier.com/connect/top-tips-from-science-writers-before-you-speak-to-the-media. Your Research Is Published—What Now? Seven Simple Tips to Communicate It Effectively: https://www.labsexplorer.com/c/your-research-is-published-what-now-7-simple-tips-to-communicate-it-effectively_217. Nine Ways Scientists Demonstrate They Don't Understand Journalism: https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2012/jan/17/scientists-journalism. “Do I Make Myself Clear?” Media Training for Scientists: https://www.sciencemag.org/features/2018/01/do-i-make-myself-clear-media-training-scientists. © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model) © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com

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JNCI MonographsOxford University Press

Published: Jul 5, 2022

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